Jailed for arson attack on Bayview Terrace flat

A man who set fire to a city centre flat handed himself into police after he realised five children living in the flat below.

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

Joseph Gallagher told police he ‘couldn’t live with himself’ when he found out children lived in the flats.

Gallagher, of Glendale Road, pleaded guilty to arson, endangering life on June 5, last year.

He started a fire in a flat in Bayview Terrace and caused almost £5,000 worth of damage.

The flat was rented by a Scandinavian man who was not in the country at the time.

Derry Crown Court heard a 10-years-old girl, who lived in a flat with her father and four siblings, answered the door to two men.

They asked for someone by name but she told them she didn’t know anyone of that name.

The men knocked a second time a short time later and one of them asked the girl if she had seen their phone.

However, the other man said it was the wrong flat and both men went upstairs.

The fire alarms went off in the building and the girl opened the door and saw the two men. One of them was 24-years-old Gallagher.

The building had to be evacuated and CCTV was seized by police, although this was of poor quality.

An investigation into the cause of the fire found that no accelerant was used.

They also found that the fire could have possibly spread to other flats if the fire alarm system hadn’t worked.

Police launched an appeal for witnesses and Gallagher handed himself into the station two days later.

He said he was responsible for the fire and had seen the appeal.

The 24-year-old also told the officers when he realised children were involved he ‘couldn’t live with himself.’

During interview, the defendant claimed he had a ‘patchy memory’ of the incident but said he acted alone.

He also said he wasn’t sure which flat he had set the fire in but ‘it was definitely me 100 per cent.’

The court heard that Gallagher has 32 previous convictions which included two armed robberies and sexual assault in the A&E Department of a local hospital.

It was revealed the 24-year-old has been assessed as posing a risk of serious harm because of a number of factors including the escalation in his offending behaviour.

Judge Philip Babington imposed an extended jail sentence of two years and four months.

The date of Gallagher’s release will be determined by the Parole Commissioners after he has served half of his sentence.

The judge also imposed an extended licence period of three years.